Crossroads Program Keeps New Moms and Pregnant Teens on Academic Track
Provides continued education with support
ANCHORAGE - When a teenager gets pregnant one of the first things in danger can be her education. It’s not unusual for a girl to drop out of high school to have a baby, but she doesn’t have to.
A program in the Anchorage school district welcomes pregnant teens as well as new moms.
The school called Crossroads is located in a modern building in Mountain View that holds a number of social service agencies devoted to early childhood. It hasn’t always been in that location, but the program itself has been around for more than 20 years.
Principal Karin Parker says the idea is to keep girls on track academically so they don’t get behind and can graduate on time.
“Our whole goal is to keep them connected to school,” says Parker. “We want to see all of our students graduate.”
But the challenges of being both a new mom and a good student are considerable. Emelin Escobar is 16 years old and nine months pregnant.
“Usually when we hear about girls getting pregnant, they drop out,” says Escobar. Escobar chose to continue her education at Crossroads after the hallways at her South Anchorage High School got too crowded.
“I would get hit with backpacks you know, people push and shove. I almost fell down the stairs once and that’s when I knew it was time to go to Crossroads.”
Forty-four girls are enrolled in the program right now, some as young as 14 years old.
Some girls choose to stay at Crossroads until they graduate, others return to their home schools once they deliver. Principal Parker says having a baby is considered an “excused absence” from school but the girls don’t get much time off.
“They get five days off from school if they have a regular delivery, “says Parker. “Ten days off if they have a C section.”
Research shows the key to keeping new moms in school is to get them back in the classroom as soon as possible, and a good way to do that is to let them bring their babies. Babies up to six months old are welcome at Crossroads and on a full day there are seventeen of them. But for those who think that would be big distraction the girls say otherwise.
“I think if we were apart from our babies we would focused on whether they are they okay and their safety,” says new mom Lei White. “It’s a lot easier to focus on your work when you have your baby right next to you.”
In fact, some of the girls are even ahead of where they were academically in their old schools and several will be graduating early. In total, more than half who go through the Crossroads program do go on to graduate with a high school diploma. For some it’s a special point of pride.
“I want to be a good role model for my daughter,” says Emelin Escobar. “ I’d tell you I had you at sixteen and I did this and this and I made it!”
It’s a lesson she hopes to pass on.